Even though more womxn are working and earning higher salaries than ever before and breaking glass ceilings all over the damn place, we’re still behind when it comes to retirement and investing—yet we live longer than men do. So what gives?
Well, a lot of the womxn I know in my life feel like they have time to wait, they can invest later when they have more available cash, after they save for a wedding, or after they pay off student loans or credit card debt. Or it’s just not that important right now. Even worse is my biggest pet peeve: that they can rely on their spouse’s 401(k). In other words, they’re contributing to their spouse’s retirement for THEIR future. Well, I’m here to tell you that in most cases, you’re wrong.
You need to be investing what you can, right now. Not only for your future self, but for your present self. So you can change things in the world, literally put your money where you mouth is (or values are), and invest in ESG or SRI stocks (aka, socially, environmentally, and ethically conscious investments). Plus, if you walk away from a marriage or a relationship, you need to have your own damn money to fall back on. Yes, you can have a healthy relationship while still prioritizing your own financial well-being.
And if you’re over there thinking you’ve got it all figured out because you have a good chunk of money in a savings account, kudos. Money in savings is a GREAT first step, but even in the highest interest savings account you can find, your money is still worth less with each passing year. The only way to combat that decreased buying power is by investing that money in something that beats the rate of inflation (which has been an average of 3.22%/year).
First, I’m going to define a few important terms I’m going to use throughout this article:
Compound Interest/Compounding Returns: Interest/returns paid on both the principal balance and on accrued interest/gains.
Retirement Accounts (SEP IRA, Roth IRA, 403b, 401k, Traditional IRA, etc): A plan for setting aside money to be spent after retirement. For the purposes of this article, the retirement accounts I refer to are all qualified retirement accounts per the IRS. Some of them help you pay less in taxes now (SEP/Traditional IRA 401k), and some help you pay less in taxes later (ROTH). For these accounts, you can’t take your money out without incurring a 10% penalty before the age of 59 ½. This is to incentivize you to keep your money in here, and not touch it until you’re actually retired (and also why I recommend also having savings accounts and non-retirement investment accounts).
Investment/Investment Account: A type of account that is post-tax, doesn’t have any long-term retirement benefits, but money can be withdrawn at any time, regardless of your age.
Inflation: A general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money.
Why You Need To Invest
We’re going to talk about compound interest here for a minute. One of my strongest beliefs is that you should get retirement and investment accounts set up first, followed by a savings account. That’s because your retirement and investment accounts will generally give you an 8% average return over a 10-year period.
Now we’re going to do some math (I know, but trust me, it’s important).
If you’re 25 and invested $5,000 now, contributed $100/month to retirement for the next 40 years, and retired at 65, you’d have somewhere around $470,467.71. If you waited until you were 30, invested $5,000 and contributed $100/month for 35 years and retired at 35, you’d have $310,851.00. That’s a difference of almost $160,000, and the amount invested only decreased by $6,000 (5 years of $100/month).
Even crazier, if you’re 20 and invested $5,000, contributed $100/month for 45 years, and retired at 65, you’d have around $708,271.99!!
So when I tell you that compound interest is important and that investing something now is better than investing a larger amount in a few years, trust me on it.
How To Invest
Invest in yourself and your future right now, even if it’s only five dollars a month. Something is better than nothing, and like I talked about above, compound interest is your friend when it comes to taking care of your future self.
If you have a retirement plan offered through a job, you can start now by:
Opening a retirement (or multiple) accounts (if you don’t have access to one through a job).
If you have one through your work, you want to contribute to both a ROTH and regular option. ROTH contributions help future you with taxes, and regular/traditional pre-tax options help you with taxes.
If you’re self-employed or don’t have a retirement plan offered through a job, you can start now by:
Opening two types of retirement accounts: a ROTH and a Traditional IRA (or a SEP IRA if you’re self-employed).
You want to open and contribute to both types of accounts because post-tax ROTH contributions help future you with taxes, and regular/traditional pre-tax contributions help you now when it comes to taxes.
Whether you have a retirement plan offered through your employer or not, I recommend splitting your pre- and post-tax contributions 50/50, so if you can set aside $50/month for now, I’d send $25 to a ROTH and $25 to a Traditional account. I also recommend opening an investment account, then a savings account. I like Ellevest and Betterment.
That’s it. Your step-by-step guide to starting investing today (in like 15 minutes). You’re worth it, and the world needs more womxn investing and taking control of their financial future.
Images: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels
Farnoosh Torabi is a financial expert, host of the podcast So Money and co-founder of Stacks House, a massive experiential museum for female financial empowerment. Currently stationed in downtown L.A., Stacks House, together with its presenting partner Zelle, as well as Charles Schwab and Day Owl, plans to travel the country and make financial literacy fun. Use this link for 40% off your ticket.
Women, I’m told, are obsessed with retirement. Over the past four years as the host of a financial podcast, my largely female audience has been sending me their biggest money concerns over email, Instagram DMs, and during chance run-ins on the A train. One of the most pressing issues I hear from listeners is how to prepare for retirement. Specifically, women want to know: Where do I begin investing so that I can have enough when I retire? Our obsession makes sense. We’re living longer than men (on average) and have the wage gap to battle, which makes shoring up money for the golden years all the more stressful. In a recent survey by Charles Schwab, three out of four young women said putting together a financial plan is very important to reaching their financial goals—versus 64% of young men. Should I invest in a 401(k)? How about a Roth IRA? And, wait. There’s a Roth 401(k)?
The questions I field often relate to all the different accounts and how they work. If all the financial lingo is getting in the way of you and your older, richer self, I have some help. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common retirement accounts and whether they’re right for you.
Workplace Retirement Accounts
what (and I cannot stress this enough) the fuck is a 401k
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) February 15, 2019
Best for: Those with access to a plan that carries a company match. If you’re not sure where to begin investing and have access to a 401(k) through your job, this may be a great place to start. Named after a section of the IRS code, the almighty 401(k) is the most popular retirement savings vehicle. Recent numbers show about 80 million people are actively participating in a 401(k) or a “defined contribution plan.” Many employers offer 401(k)s as a workplace benefit. (If you work for a non-profit, school or government office, your plan is probably called a 403(b). It basically works the same way.)
You get to contribute automatically out of every paycheck. And with the help of the plan provider, you can select your investments within the plan to reflect your risk tolerance and retirement age. Annual contributions are capped
at $19,000 in 2019 or $20,000 if you are age 50 and over and can be deducted from your taxable income, which helps you save on your taxes today. Your tax burden is then pushed off until you start making qualified withdrawals at age 59 ½.
Bonus: Some employers will throw in a match. For example, they may provide a dollar for every dollar you invest, up to, say, 5% of your salary. And if that is the case, you should absolutely invest in a 401(k) to at least earn the company match. It’s sort of like free money!
Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (or Traditional IRAs)
Best for: Those who may not have access to a workplace retirement account and want to save on taxes today. The traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is a popular retirement savings vehicle that you can open up at a financial institution or bank. Like a 401(k), contributions made to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible up to $6,000 in 2019 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older). Funds aren’t taxed until they’re withdrawn, but there is a penalty for taking money out before age 59 ½.
At this point my retirement plan is just banking on the fact that climate change will kill us all by 2030
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) February 15, 2019
Best for: Those who think they’ll be in a higher tax bracket in retirement (i.e. most young people). Or, those who want to save for retirement, but are concerned they may need the money sooner. A Roth IRA is another type of individual retirement account. It is similar to a traditional IRA as far as the contribution limits go. This year’s cap is $6,000. The major difference is that you can’t deduct your contribution from your taxable income today. Instead, the tax benefit arrives later down the road, when you pay zero taxes on all future withdrawals in retirement (and when adhering to Roth IRA rules).
Another thing to note about Roth IRAs: You can’t contribute if you earn too much money. This year, if you’re filing taxes single, you’re no longer eligible for a Roth IRA once you earn $137,000 or more. For married couples filing jointly, you become ineligible at $203,000. The Roth IRA is also unique in that you can take out your contributions (note: not your earnings on the contributions, just contributions) at any time without facing a tax or penalty. Some really like this benefit because it provides better flexibility of accessing your money if you really need it.
Pro tip: If you already have a 401(k) or another type of employer-sponsored retirement account where contributions are tax-deductible—and you’re looking to diversify your tax exposure in retirement—a Roth IRA can be a solid vehicle for that purpose.
Best for: Those who want the best of both worlds. Now that we’ve reviewed the basics of 401(k)s and Roth IRAs, you can probably imagine how a Roth 401(k) works. Like a 401(k) this is an employer-sponsored investment savings account. The money you set aside, like a Roth IRA, is done so with after-tax dollars. You don’t get to deduct your contribution from your taxable income today, but you can make qualified withdrawals in retirement tax-free. Roth 401(k)s offer the higher contribution limits of a 401(k). And while a Roth IRA limits who can contribute based on income, a Roth 401(k) doesn’t have that rule.
Shop Betches What’s A 401k Tee
Images: Alexander Mils / Unsplash; betchesluvthis / Twitter (2)